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Baptists care for victims of south Texas floods

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (BP)–The second time a once-in-a-lifetime flood swamped Dick Davis’ home, he took it in stride.
Davis’ house near the Guadalupe River first flooded in 1972, the same year he joined First Baptist Church of Seguin, Texas. Twenty-six years later, he was again standing in knee-deep mud in what had been his living room.
“I’m older now. I’ve been through it before. And I have a lot of faith,” Davis said. “I quit worrying a long time ago about why things like this happen. I’m not in charge of that. I’m not the chairman of that committee.”
A line of thunderstorms dumped more than 20 inches of rain on south-central Texas Oct. 17-18. The torrential rains caused flooding in 60 counties that claimed at least 22 lives and drove thousands from their homes. By Oct. 22, President Clinton had declared 25 Texas counties a federal disaster area.
Texas Baptist volunteers working from three disaster relief units and numerous churches provided hot meals for flood victims in the region. Southern Baptists from Arkansas and Oklahoma joined the relief effort as floodwaters drained southeastward toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Dick Talley of First Baptist Church, Dallas, coordinated the multi-state disaster relief response from the American Red Cross office in Austin. He took on that responsibility just two days after returning from Puerto Rico, where he had ministered to victims of Hurricane Georges.
Volunteers set up the 18-wheel Texas Baptist disaster relief mobile unit and its field kitchen near the police station in New Braunfels on Sunday, Oct. 18, in time to serve the evening meal.
From their base of operations in New Braunfels, the Texas Baptist Men cooked meals that Red Cross workers delivered to flood victims throughout the region.
The team prepared about 6,000 meals in the first three days. They expected the numbers to rise rapidly as transportation into flooded areas improved, according to unit coordinator Mel Goodwin of Clarksville City Baptist Church near Longview.
Goodwin came to south Texas just days after returning from China and Bangladesh, where he delivered water purifiers and taught nationals how to operate them.
The senior center in New Braunfels filled with four feet of water on Oct. 18. The center is home base for a meals-on-wheels program that serves 100 homebound elderly residents each day. Volunteers at the center normally serve about 15,000 on-site meals a year to senior adults.
Thanks to Texas Baptists, the meals-on-wheels service was interrupted for only one day.
The disaster relief team provided hot meals for home delivery by the senior center’s volunteers, who also worked quickly to restore their facility to working order in a matter of just a few days.
Fort Worth-area volunteers set up the Tarrant Baptist Association regional response unit at Onion Creek Baptist Church on the southeast edge of Austin, then on Oct. 22 joined the regional unit from Wichita-Archer-Clay Baptist Association which had set up emergency food service at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
The Arkansas Baptist disaster relief mobile unit entered Victoria, Texas, on Oct. 21. The next day, Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief volunteers reported to the Houston headquarters of American Red Cross for assignment. The Oklahoma Baptists were slated to set up operations at First Baptist Church, Rosenberg.
First Baptist Church in New Braunfels provided overnight lodging to 45 flood victims on Saturday night, Oct. 17. The church also provided meal service, a clothes closet and cleaning supplies for a couple of days until the disaster relief efforts could be coordinated, with various churches in the city assuming specific responsibilities.
By mid-week, the church’s family life center became a staging area for the city to dispatch volunteer work crews.
Floods damaged the homes of at least two dozen member families at First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, and probably 10 of those were major to complete losses, according to Larry Soape, minister of education.
Neil Kibble, pastor of First Baptist Church in Seguin, knew of 45 families in his church who sustained some flood damage to their homes.
At Pecan Cove Estates, where at least two families from First Baptist Church in Seguin had riverfront homes, some large boats perched in treetops. Floodwaters had wrapped others around tree trunks or tossed them along the roadside like crumpled scraps of tinfoil.
Floods reportedly destroyed the home of Mitch Kolonovsky, pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church, Seguin. At least three families belonging to Calvary Baptist Church in San Marcos lost all their belongings to the floodwaters.
Milfred Minatrea, director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas church ministries department, made an initial family assistance funding disbursement to several associations in the flooded region. Family assistance is made available by the BGCT to member families of Texas Baptist churches and is coordinated by local associations.
“We could easily be talking about $60,000 in family assistance,” Minatrea said, noting that reports from a number of associations were still forthcoming.
Texas Baptists wishing to contribute to the disaster relief ministries, including emergency food service and family assistance, should send their designated checks to the Treasurer, Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington, Dallas TX 75246-1798.
Keith Crouch, director of the BGCT church building planning department, also contacted directors of missions in the hardest-hit associations to offer church recovery assistance for damaged church facilities.
About 50 people spent the night at First Baptist Church, Seguin, on Saturday, Oct. 17, after floodwaters forced them from their homes. After worship services the next day, women at the church began cooking more than 100 meals a day for their displaced neighbors. Volunteers from the church also served meals prepared on the disaster relief unit stationed in New Braunfels.
One team from Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, and another group from San Marcos Baptist Academy planned to begin working with the church’s disaster relief ministries on Oct. 22.
After morning worship, more than two dozen members of Second Baptist Church in La Grange, Texas, spent nearly eight hours Sunday, Oct. 18, helping to evacuate six families living near the rain-swollen Colorado River.
In the days that followed, volunteers from the church prepared to aid other area residents with “mud-out” recovery and restoration, once the floodwaters subsided.
Roy Childs, a member of Second Baptist Church in La Grange, took two disaster recovery teams from his church to Del Rio about six weeks earlier. They worked with a San Antonio-area mud-out crew to help flood victims in the wake of Tropical Storm Charley.
Soon afterwards, Childs received a call from Eddie Fonseca of Iglesia Bautista Sur Zarzamora in San Antonio, leader of the mud-out crew. He invited Childs to join him on a disaster relief trip to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Georges. Childs prayed about it, but he felt strongly that God was not giving him permission to go.
“I know why now,” he said. “We needed to be here to help our neighbors. There’s work to do right here in our town and our area.”
Wilbert Long, Mission Service Corps volunteer with San Antonio Baptist Association, visited homes in some of the Alamo city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, helping to assess damage for family assistance requests.
Rapidly rising waters flooded the home of Oscar Vicks, a deacon at Greater Tree Mount Baptist Temple in San Antonio. Doris Vicks described to Long how the family waded out to their Blazer in water that lapped up to their necks. Once inside the sports utility vehicle with some elderly neighbors, they escaped the floods, driving through water up to the windshield.
“She said it sounded like a motorboat. Water bubbled out the exhaust, but that Blazer never quit running,” Long said.
The pastor of San Antonio’s Life in the Word Church lost his library when floodwaters filled the office in his home. Both the youth minister and music minister of First Baptist Church in Converse sustained flood damage to their homes.
Floodwaters rushed through Resurrection Baptist Church at Schertz, a predominantly African American congregation near Cibolo Creek, knocking one wall out of place and causing an estimated $65,000 damage.
One member of Resurrection Baptist Church, a single mother, lost her mobile home and all her belongings to the flood.
While some members worked at the church, dragging saturated carpet, soaked books and waterlogged furniture from the building, others canvassed the community to determine human needs they could meet.
“We need help here, but we’re trying to help others who are worse off than we are,” said Elroy Henry, Resurrection Baptist’s outreach minister. “That’s why we’re here.”

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  • Ken Camp